Governor Safety Award

Standing in the laboratory that could have been destroyed but for their actions, are Dave Ostrowski, building services engineer; John Lang, custodial supervisor; and Todd Baker, electrician, along with Sue Fisher, campus radiation officer. The trio moved quickly in the late evening of March 9, 2006, to stop and clean up a water leak in the ceiling of the second-floor lab in Dan Black Hall. For their quick thinking and decisive action, they will be honored in August with a Governor’s Safety Award. Photo by Patrick O’Donnell

Trio Recognized for “Extraordinary Efforts”

CSUF Employees Are Honored With Governor's Safety Award

July 10, 2007

By Pam McLaren

The first inkling that something was wrong was the water coming out from under the lab door into the second-floor hallway of Dan Black Hall.

“I could tell we had a problem when I opened the door,” said Dave Ostrowski, a campus building services engineer who took the call from public safety at about 9:30 p.m. March 9, 2006. “There was water coming out of the florescent light fixtures. I couldn’t believe how much water was coming from every vent fixture, sprinkler and crack in the ceiling.”

Ostrowski was one of three heroes that night. After quickly assessing what was happening, Ostrowski called electrician Todd Baker and custodial supervisor John Lang and the three of them set to work to contain and minimize the damage from a broken water pipe in the ceiling.

“Without their extraordinary quickness and above-the-call-of-duty efforts, this could have been an extremely serious situation,” said Sue Fisher, radiation safety officer. With their quick thinking action, they were able to divert a situation that could have been dangerous and costly to the campus, she added.

For their efforts, Baker, Lang and Ostrowski will be recognized with a Governor’s Employee Safety Award, an annual honor, awarded to state employees for outstanding contributions to safety. The awards will be presented during a special Aug. 24 ceremony at Sacramento State University.

The men turned off the power to the lights and shut off the water valve, then called Fisher for an evaluation of the safety of entering into the area. The situation could have been critical, Fisher said, because the water was not only entering the hallway, but also entering the chemical stockroom. Their actions stopped serious damage and possible chemical reactions.

Cleared to enter the lab, they set to work.

“Todd immediately began to release water from the overhead lights to prevent electrical shortages, while Dave and John hurriedly started to contain and remove the water pouring into the room,” wrote Fisher in her nomination of the trio for the award.

“We started to mop up the water on the counters and the floor and we thought it was cleared up, then we opened drawers and cabinets and more water came gushing out,” Baker said. The men worked with Fisher for almost three hours cleaning up and drying out the area.

Recalling the incident on a recent day, the three men pointed to the ceiling where the drywall had bulged and to small holes they drilled to allow water to escape rather than bring down the drywall. They explained how far the water splattered and opened drawers to demonstrate how they pulled them out, emptied them and then stacked them so air could dry out the wood. Because of their actions, students and faculty were back in the lab and able to work the next day.

“I guess what I remember the most — besides a heck of a lot of water — was that all three guys took on this task with such a positive attitude. They were highly focused on what they needed to do and jumped right in to do it,” Fisher said. “So, even though this was a terrible thing to happen, their wonderful attitudes to just keep working at it were just incredible.”

“The whole thing worked because we communicated,” said Lang. “We knew what tasks we had to do and we did it. It’s nice to work with good team players and proper equipment to do your job. Being in this field of work, there are all kinds of emergencies that you have to respond to and safety always comes first.”

Baker joined the university13 years ago as a custodian. He moved into landscape services then became a skilled laborer before being offered an apprenticeship to become an electrician. The Fullerton resident holds an electrical certification he earned at Long Beach State and has studied elementary education at Cal State Fullerton.

Lang has been a member of the campus community since 1995 but has more than 35 years in the cleaning business. The West Covina resident has had special training and holds certifications in management, supervision and leadership, as well as clean-up of blood-born pathogens.

Ostrowski has worked for seven years at Cal State Fullerton “mostly off-shifts,” such as swing, graveyard and weekends. The resident of University Gables in Buena Park, he has had training for air conditioning and refrigeration.

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